By: Blonde Two

No, don’t get over excited, today’s title is not referring to our Blonde lady curves – today I am talking about those squiggly brown lines that add a certain layer of confusion to all our walking maps.  They are odd things and do take a bit of getting used to so I though I would share some Blonde contour wisdom with you.  If you should want some more sensible help when you have finished reading then visit the wonderful Ordnance Survey

1.  The contour lines are the brown ones – in my head this means piles of earth so they must mean hills.

2.  Natural water (blue lines) runs across contour lines in a downhill direction.  Obvious I know, but it helps you work out which way is going to be uphill without having to read the numbers (imagine the numbers on an uphill slope, they are the right way up if you are at the bottom of the hill).

3.  Contour lines have numbers (height in metres above sea level).  On a 1:25000 map, each contour line represents a 10m gain or loss in height.  I am 1.73 metres tall so I times this by five and add a bit more to get an idea of what this looks like in my head.  If you happen to be 10m tall, then this will be much easier for you!

4.  Close together contour lines are to be avoided.  The closer together the lines, the steeper the hill.  Don’t even look at a map of Snowdonia or Scotland – there seem to be no gaps at all on their maps.  Killer Valley on the North Moor (between Great Kneeset and Shelstone Tors) is a good place to look at an example.

5.  Watch out for kinks in the contour lines.  These are not accidents brought about by the cartographer stopping for a sip of tea.  They show either re-entrants (big dips) or spurs (big mounds).  Big mounds are alright because you will just bump in to them but beware of big dips, especially at night.  Lots of kinks in a line will probably have some water running down the middle of them and be a steep valley.  I have to spend a lot of time looking for these in the dark at the moment – they are not my favourite thing at all.

It takes a while to get the hang of contour lines but the best way to do it is to sit down on top of a tor with a map, a flask of tea and a chocolate bar and compare the map to what you can see around you (don’t try this in the dark, you won’t get very far).

I was out walking the dog, pondering this post just now and found myself imagining what my contour map would look like if I lay down on my back on the floor.  Weird I know but I think you would recognise a couple of features … which reminds me of Nipple Tor but you will have to ask Blonde One to tell you about that!